Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Melissa Nathan Award - helping families in crisis

This year was the fifth of this award and I know we are inundated with awards these days but this is one that is definitely close to my heart. In 2006 novelist Melissa Nathan died of breast cancer leaving her lovely husband Andrew and small child Sammy. She was hugely talented and after her death it transpired that she had been quietly working to raise funds for families in crisis. Her parents and Andrew decided to carry on this work in the form of the Melissa Nathan Foundation.

Author Melissa Nathan

The Awards held in London's Cafe de Paris, were set up five years ago to champion funny female-targeted writing as well as to promote the foundation. Because of the enormous affection held for both Melissa and Andrew the judging panel is pretty awesome and has been the same for the full five years. Once again Jo Brand, Joanna Trollope, Sophie Kinsella, Morwenna Banks and Liza Tarbuck have got together along with Waitrose book buyer Freya Wright and this years award sponsor Andrew Cleaves (MD of National Express Coaches) to read all seven finalist books.

The shortlist was Foursome by Jane FallonGetting Over Mr Right by Chrissie ManbyMajor Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen SimonsonObstacles to Young Love by David NobbsPerfect Proposal by Katie Fforde and Sweet Temptation by Lucy Diamond. You may have read one or more of these - I must confess I haven't, but will definitely be checking out the overall winner, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand.

Each judge gave a brief overview of one of the finalists, Jo Brand gave us a fabulous and filthy 20 minutes of stand-up and the drinks and food was plentiful. The star of the event however was the promotion of The Writer's Club which is on sale with all proceeds going to the foundation to help families in crisis. Melissa's friends who are writers have all contributed plus there is a story by her nine-year-old son Sammy and an unpublished play, The Big C, by Melissa written while she was undergoing treatment. If you see this in the shops please buy a copy - you will be helping a worthwhile charity details of which are here.

The focus of this charitable foundation is to support families in crisis such as those split up by poverty with parents going away to earn a living, families divided by war, families with very ill members, those in poverty, those who have suffered  financial hardship because of crime, and anyone else who needs their help. A little goes a long way to make life for these families more bearable.

When she was alive Melissa Nathan provided laughs through her novels which include The Nanny which is one of my favourites, even though she's no longer here the laughter continues through her awards - a really fitting tribute to a very special woman.

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